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The Theory of Everything

‘The Theory of Everything’ manages the feat of making physics palatable for general audiences.  The only way Hollywood could make this easy to understand is by focussing on relationships.  By exploring the bond between world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife, it manages to make his scientific achievements easier to understand.  Imparting personal and professional accomplishments, ‘The Theory of Everything’ should ensure viewers aren’t too overwhelmed by scientific terminology.

 

In 1963 university student Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) meets fellow attendee Jane (Felicity Jones).  Their courtship becomes the backdrop to Hawking’s extraordinary life.  Becoming one of the top physicists of his era, not even the onset of motor neuron disease would stop his efforts.  Spanning decades, their eventual marriage would be tested by the world’s attention on Hawking’s remarkable achievements.

 

‘The Theory of Everything’ is about two people determined to overcome odds.  Despite physical ailments, Hawking continues to generate discussion about our place in the world.  How he was able to do this is effectively shown by director James Marsh.  Giving equal time to Jane, Marsh also highlights her importance in Hawking’s viewpoints.  Her presence humanises his enigmatic genius with Redmayne and Jones successfully portraying their roles.

 

As part of the biographical genre, ‘The Theory of Everything’ is generally satisfying.  Whilst occasionally having a glossy ‘Mills and Boon romance’ feel, the script does well in unravelling a multi-faceted person.  Although there is superficiality to some of the character portrayals, the compression of the time-line ensures pacing never falters.  The attention to detail in the initial 1960’s scenes mirror the high quality for which the production strives. 

 

Hawking’s contribution to science is incalculable.  ‘The Theory of Everything’ portrays his accomplishments reasonably well with personal issues just as engrossing.  Even casual admirers of his work will gain much from a fascinating look at Hawking’s amazing life.

 

Rating out of 10:  7

 

Still Alice

It is easy being cynical about films like ‘Still Alice’.  The ‘disease of the week’ motif used is something award voters love.  Roles featuring terminally ill characters have often appealed to actors looking to enhance their thespian credibility.  Making ‘Still Alice’ stand out is the authenticity it brings.  Examining a tragic illness, the startling performances of its stars ensures ‘Still Alice’ breaks free of formulaic cliché.

 

Alice (Julianne Moore) is a respected professor who has just turned 50.  Living with husband Tom (Alec Baldwin) and sharing close ties with her family, including daughter Lydia (Kristen Stewart), life runs smoothly.  When noticing bouts of memory loss, she sees a doctor.  Diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease, her world is shattered.  Scared of losing her past and facing an uncertain future, Alice relies on friends and family in the cloudy days ahead.

 

Those who have lived through seeing someone with Alzheimer’s will find ‘Still Alice’ uncomfortable viewing.  An invisible disease affecting everyone around the sufferer, the devastation left is something ‘Still Alice’ realistically tackles.  Despite Alice’s intelligence and distinguished background, she still can’t escape the illness’ dark abyss.  With her family watching her mind slowly die, their reactions and attempts in dealing with Alice is unbelievably sad but inspiring.

 

Sensitively directed and filled with fine performances, ‘Still Alice’ reveals much of an illness not many want to acknowledge.  Alice’s fear at losing her memories is heartbreakingly portrayed and Moore is superb in her role.  She successfully conveys the dignified grace her character tries to maintain in face of such a dreadful condition.  Managing not to indulge in too many ‘why me?’ moments, Moore under-plays the cruel nature of such an insidious affliction with her co-stars matching her high standard.

 

‘Still Alice’ may have the trappings of typical award-baiters but is elevated by a convincing script.  It deserves accolades for handling a difficult subject with emotional restraint leaving hope that a cure will soon be found.

 

Rating out of 10:  8